A key part of this proposed NASA project will be to continue training and institutional capacity-building. Part of this will occur through collaboration with Francis Baquero of Ecociencia in the agent-based modeling, and part with the final project workshop in year 2, which will occur before the dissemination conference in Quito. Work with Ecociencia throughout the two years of this project will continue to involve document and technology transfer and education components. We hope that Ecuador will continue to be an eligible country to participate in the next round of UNC funding from the Fogarty Foundation at NIH (UNC submits another proposal for 5-years in early 2006), which would greatly facilitate continuing to bring young Ecuadorian scholars to UNC for coursework, research collaboration, and training. In this present project, we have budgeted for one student to be funded in both years 1 and 2 as a Graduate Research Assistant at project expense, pending acceptance into a UNC PhD program in Geography or another department which has students collaborating on the Ecuador projects, viz., City and Regional Planning, Ecology, Economics, Anthropology, and Biostatistics. This student will work on the agent-based models with us. A second doctoral student with strong quantitative skills in another department will also collaborate in this project on ABMs at no cost to the project, supported by CPC IGERT training funds. The Carolina Population Center is the top-rated academic population research center in the US, with excellent research facilities, including its superb library, computer programming support staff, statisticians, and its in-house Spatial Analysis Unit.
It should be noted that Ecociencia, although a research organization and not a university, has its own Scholarship Program for Conservation Research, with a fellowship competition for undergraduate students to provide them with fellowships of $2,500 to encourage high quality theses on biodiversity. Through its subcontract with UNC, we propose that Ecociencia will use resources from this proposal to support a thesis based on our Ecuador project data. To date, 39 students have been funded. Finally, Ecociencia senior investigators will continue to teach occasional classes at the top universities in Quito, as well as training workshops: over the past decade, Ecociencia has trained about 500 persons, including many policy-makers in the Ministry of Environment and NGOs, in 24-40-hour workshops on environmental issues. Research findings from this proposed project, including future scenarios and trajectories of change in the NEA from agent-based models, will fit well into some of these future workshops.